Aeon Co., Japan’s biggest supermarket chain, said beef from cattle contaminated by radiation was sold to customers at 14 of its stores in Tokyoand four other prefectures.
The meat was from cattle in Fukushima that ate straw tainted with cesium exceeding government safety standards, according to an e-mailed statement by the Chiba prefecture-based retailer.
Aeon sold the beef from late-April through mid-June at stores in Tokyo, Ishikawa, Kanagawa, Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures. The retailer said it will safeguard customers’ health by improving its system for checking beef for radioactive contamination.
Reports last week that contaminated beef entered Japan’s food supply deepened concern about food safety prompted after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant began emitting radiation. As many as 84 cattle that ate tainted straw were shipped to market, Fukushima prefecture said today in an e-mailed release.
Japan’s government may ban beef shipments from Fukushima prefecture as early as July 19, according to reports in local media including the Mainichi newspaper.
Fukushima is the 10th biggest cattle-producing region in Japan, representing 2.7 percent of the total. The nation exported 541,045 metric tons of beef worth 3.4 billion yen ($42.8 million) last year, including premium wagyu meat.
Cattle at a farm about 60 kilometers from the plant were fed with straw containing 97,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium, compared with a government standard of 300 becquerels, Hidenori Ohtani, at the livestock division of the Fukushima prefectural government, said yesterday. Tests showed beef from that farm, which shipped 42 cattle to market, contained 650 becquerels of cesium per kilogram, exceeding the official standard of 500, said Kazuyuki Hashimoto at the food-monitoring division of the Tokyo government office.
Miyagi prefecture yesterday found about triple the safe levels of cesium in rice straw at cattle farms, the Asahi newspaper reported today. It asked farmers to refrain from shipping cattle that ate straw collected after March 11, the report said.
There’s no centralized system to check for radioactive contamination of food in Japan as voluntary tests are conducted by prefectural governments in cooperation with local farmers.
The agriculture ministry is discussing with the health ministry and the Fukushima government if it is feasible to test all cattle in the prefecture for radiation to prevent the shipment of tainted meat to the market, Yasuo Sasaki, senior press counselor for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said yesterday in Tokyo.